Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Israeli warplanes hold joint exercise with UAE (& “Mossad turned French spies into double agents”)

March 28, 2017

The Israel Air Force began a joint exercise in Greece today that includes aircraft from the United Arab Emirates (as well as Greece, the U.S. and Italy). The training patch for the exercise (above) includes the flags of these countries. Israel and the UAE do not have official diplomatic relations although (as I’ve written before on this dispatch list) there have been various unreported contacts.


There has been outburst of congratulations from Israelis after Knesset member Merav Ben Ari posted a photo on Facebook (above) yesterday of her new baby girl, conceived through IVF, whom she has said she will raise with the baby’s gay father, a friend of hers. Ben Ari, 41, is an unmarried MK for the Kulanu party, part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.


I attach six news stories from today’s newspapers.

-- Tom Gross



1. “Le Monde: Mossad turned French spies into double agents after joint Syria op” (March 27, 2017)
2. “Israeli Air Force holds joint exercise with United Arab Emirates, U.S. and Italy” (By Gili Cohen, Haaretz, March 27, 2017)
3. “Hizbullah commanders, fighters, killed in Syria” (Naharnet (Lebanon), March 27, 2017)
4. “Trump was ‘right’ on anti-Semitic incidents, White House says: Spicer says media should not ‘rush to judgement’” (By Amir Tibon, Haaretz, March 27, 2017)
5. “Pakistan starts building fence along border with Afghanistan” (By Saeed Shah, Wall St Journal, March 27, 2017)
6. “Israelis gush over lawmaker’s announcement of baby girl to be raised with gay father” (JTA, March 26, 2017)




Mossad Reportedly Turned French Spies Into Double Agents After Joint Syria Op

Le Monde reveals how Israeli espionage agency allegedly exploited a successful chemical weapons operation to get French counterparts to become sources; former head of French counterintelligence agency being questioned as suspect in case.

By Dov Alfon
March 27, 2017

PARIS – An internal report written by French intelligence, parts of which were published in the daily newspaper Le Monde on Sunday, reveal efforts by the Mossad to develop relationships with French spies, “to the point of crossing the line of turning them into double agents.”

The audit report recommends investigating Bernard Squarcini, the head of the General Directorate for Internal Security until 2012, on suspicion of maintaining unauthorized and unreported ties with the Mossad’s Paris bureau chief at the time (identified in the report only by his initials, D.K.).

The background to all this was a joint operation launched by the Mossad and French counterintelligence agency in 2010 to collect intelligence about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical warfare plans. The operation, code-named Ratafia, aimed to recruit a senior Syrian engineer, who was meant to come to France to do additional training in chemistry and also to help recruit other engineers.

The Mossad and French agents would hold work meetings using assumed names, as is customary. The French agents, who belonged to three different counterintelligence units, were responsible for the operation in Paris, while the Mossad agents were responsible for the plot that would enable the Syrian target to leave the country for studies and to recruit others in the French capital.

But according to the report, the Israelis exploited the operation to persuade an unknown number of French agents to also serve as intelligence sources for Israel.

One of the French agents under surveillance was seen going up to the apartment of the Mossad’s Paris chief for dinner one Friday night. Later, he reported to his superiors that he was going to Dubai on vacation, when in fact he flew with his family to Israel, where he spent time with Mossad agents without permission and without reporting the meetings afterward.

In addition, according to the report, suspicious sums of money were deposited in the bank accounts of those French agents who were involved in the Ratafia operation.

The internal report calls for further investigation to understand what damage was done to the French intelligence service.

Le Monde also published details about the Ratafia operation. The paper claimed that the Mossad succeeded in recruiting the Syrian engineer and extracted information from him about Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.

The French daily said the operation enabled Israel to prove that the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Syria was being used to boost Assad’s chemical weapons program, which led to the cancellation of the agreement with the Syrians in 2011.

According to Le Monde, the Mossad’s interest in building relations with French spies was exposed because a different French espionage agency, responsible for information security, was keeping the agents under surveillance and photographed them with Mossad agents.

The paper said that all the Mossad agents involved were identified by their real names. The French filed a formal complaint, and two Israeli diplomats in the Israeli Embassy in Paris left their posts and returned to Israel. The Mossad chief, D.K., also returned to Israel following the French complaint.

According to the report, the two Mossad agents suspected of contacts with the French have left the service and are now private businessmen in Tel Aviv. But during 2016, the report noted, they made contact with Squarcini (the counterintelligence head they’d worked with) in Paris.

Squarcini, who is now being questioned as a suspect in the case, told investigators he met the two “totally by chance.”

A short time before the suspicions came to light, Squarcini himself launched an internal inquiry into whether the Mossad was trying to recruit French agents as sources. However, the agents he put under surveillance did not include those involved in the Ratafia operation, even though Squarcini was fully aware of the close ties that had developed between his people and the Mossad operatives, the report said.

An investigating judge appointed by the French filed an official request with Israel to question the two ex-Mossad agents who made contact with Squarcini in 2016. It isn’t clear if he received a response.

The judge is seeking to build on the internal investigative report and broaden the investigation into whether the Mossad infiltrated French intelligence under Squarcini.



Israeli Air Force Holds Joint Exercise With United Arab Emirates, U.S. and Italy
By Gili Cohen
March 27, 2017

The Israel Air Force began a joint exercise on Monday in Greece that included dozens of aircraft from foreign armies. Dubbed Iniohos 2017, an official report for the Greek air force noted that the air forces of Israel, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Italy participated in the exercise. The training patch for the exercise includes the flags of the countries along with the slogan “Act with Awareness.”

The Iniohos 2017 exercise is due to be wrapped up next Thursday. Photos from the past several days show F-16 aircraft from the United Arab Emirates alongside an American Air Force transport plane at the Greek air force base. The American army reported that it had dispatched 12 F-16C airplanes and close to 220 crew members to participate in the exercise. The joint exercise, according to a U.S. army report, is strengthening ties among the participating countries, maintain[ing] joint readiness and interoperability,” the news release stated.

This is not the first time that the Israel Air Force has cooperated with its UAE counterpart. Last year, Israeli pilots participated in the Red Flag training exercise in the United States in which pilots from Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Spain also participated.

Israel and the UAE do not have official diplomatic relations although there are reports in foreign media from time to time of unofficial contacts or of contacts that remain secret. In addition, the Israel Defense Forces is expanding its joint training with other foreign armies. Last week, F-16s participated in joint training in Cyprus and were seen in the skies over Paphos.

Next November, a wide-scale exercise will take place in Israel with the participation of representatives of foreign countries including India, the United States, Poland and Italy. As reported in Haaretz, the air force is outsourcing management of this international flagship exercise and is therefore seeking to hire the services of a civilian company.

Several months ago, Israel Air Force Commander Amir Eshel said: “[Israel] is in a peak year of cooperation with foreign armies in Israel and abroad. In November, the largest aerial exercise will be held here, with nine countries.”

Israel maintains broad cooperation with the Greek air force and also participated in the current exercise in the two prior years in connection with which it sent fighter aircraft for joint training in Greece. Just last week, it was reported that in connection with a visit to Greece, Brig. Gen. Erez Meisel, the head of the foreign relations department in the planning division, had signed a cooperation agreement with his Greek counterpart.

In the past, a senior officer described the cooperation between the countries as strategic and noted that the countries have common interests, both military and economic. About six months ago, a squadron of Yanshuf and Yasur helicopters participated in a joint exercise in Greece that rehearsed landing on Mt. Olympus, among other operations.

The commander of the squadron that participated in the training, identified only as Lt. Col. Gilad, told Haaretz at the time that it involved a flight under conditions with which the Israeli pilots are not familiar. “We only have Mt. Hermon and there the mountains simulate countries where we might land one day.”



Hizbullah commanders, fighters, killed in Syria
By Naharnet Newsdesk
Naharnet (Lebanon)
March 27, 2017

Syrian opposition factions destroyed a Hizbullah military position and killed a number of its commanders and fighters in the town of Qamhana in central Syria’s Hama district on Sunday [26 Mar], Sky News Arabia reported Monday [27 Mar].

According to field sources, the opposition fighters targeted the position with guided missiles, which led to the destruction and the killing of all Hizbullah fighters inside, asserting that among them were field commanders, according to Sky News.

On Saturday [25 Mar], opposition factions managed to counter a large-scale military offensive by Iranian government and armed forces in the northern Hama countryside.

The opposition said in a statement that the government forces tried to regain control of al-Sakher checkpoint but turned back after suffering heavy losses.

The opposition pointed out that the clashes resulted in the death of a number of government forces, and the destruction of a tank.

The developments coincide with the battle in Raqqa, led by Syria’s Democratic Forces, to restore the city from the grip of the Islamic State group.

On Sunday [26 Mar], the US-backed Democratic Forces of Syria controlled a military airport, which was subordinate to the IS, and is located near the largest dam in Syria on the Euphrates River.



Trump Was ‘Right’ on anti-Semitic Incidents, White House Says
Noting arrest of Israeli-American teen for bomb threats against Jewish communities, Spicer says media should not ‘rush to judgement’
By Amir Tibon
March 27, 2017

WASHINGTON - White House Press Secretary said on Monday during his daily press briefing that President Trump “was right” when he said that some of the anti-Semitic incidents in the United States may be “the reverse” of what they look like.

Spicer said that the media should not “rush to judgement” when it comes to hate crimes, and brought up the Israeli-American teen who is being investigated by the Israeli police in connection to the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers.

The teen arrested this week on suspicion of making a host of bomb threats on Jewish institutions worldwide has been making such cyberattacks for two years, but only recently was his capture given high priority, according to police sources who spoke with Haaretz.

The sources attributed the turnabout to pressure from United States President Donald Trump. A few weeks ago, after Trump announced that the FBI would do everything in its power to catch the perpetrator, the agency sent 12 investigators from its cybercrime unit to Israel to assist the Israeli investigation.

The 19-year-old was arrested in the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Thursday by cybercrimes unit of the Israel Police, seizing computers and other items investigators say helped the suspect.



Pakistan Starts Building Fence Along Border With Afghanistan
Move could further rile tensions between the nations
By Saeed Shah
Wall Street Journal
March 27, 2017

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan said it has begun building a fence along its border with Afghanistan, a move that could further rile relations between the two countries, each of which blames the other for harboring terrorists.

Kabul doesn’t recognize hundreds of miles of Pakistan’s mountainous northwest border, which was drawn up under British colonial rule. Pakistan in February closed the border for “security reasons” for more than a month, to protests from landlocked Afghanistan, reopening it on March 20.

Militants from Pakistan have relocated in Afghanistan and use its territory to stage attacks into Pakistan, Islamabad says.

Conversely, Kabul says Pakistan has been for years sheltering the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network, a concerned echoed by Washington.

Pakistan has decided it needs to do more to try to close off it porous border with Afghanistan.

Much of that border on the Pakistani side is made of up of the tribal areas, a wild buffer zone where the regular laws of Pakistan don’t apply. Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Bajwa, visiting the border Saturday, said construction of a fence has begun in the Bajaur and Mohmand parts of the tribal areas – both frequent crossings points for Pakistani militants.

“A better managed, secure and peaceful border is in mutual interest of both brotherly countries who have given phenomenal sacrifices in war against terrorism,” Gen. Bajwa said in a statement.

Pakistan is reeling from a recent wave of terrorist attacks that have left more than 100 dead across the country – including a suicide bombing in February at a shrine in the south of the country that killed dozens. It blamed the attacks on militants based in Afghanistan.
Kabul said the problem isn’t the border.

“Building a fence will not help solve the problem, but will only create more tension,” said Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman of the Afghan ministry of defense. “To counter terrorism, Pakistan needs to deny sanctuaries to terrorist groups, stop financing, training and helping them…that’s something that would help stop terrorist attacks.”

Washington long has alleged that Pakistan’s military backs the Taliban as a proxy in Afghanistan, where Islamabad fears the influence of its rival India. Pakistan denies the charge of official support but does sometimes acknowledge the presence of the Afghan Taliban on its soil.

Kabul and U.S.-led coalition troops also acknowledge the presence of Pakistani militants in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said Saturday that a U.S. airstrike earlier this month had killed Pakistani militant Qari Yasin in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika.

“The fence will have an impact, definitely, but to extract the maximum benefit from this exercise, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have to sit down and work out a joint counterterrorism strategy for either side of the border,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, head of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, a think tank in Islamabad.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who described the security situation there as a “stalemate,” has asked the administration of President Donald Trump for thousands more troops.

In addition to the fencing, Pakistan had been trying to tamp down trouble on the lawless border region through renewed military operations in the tribal areas, which were a sanctuary for Afghan, Pakistani and al Qaeda jihadists. Islamabad is working on legislation that will integrate the tribal areas more fully into the rest of Pakistan.

On the other part of the Afghan border, which runs along the southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar, Pakistan has in recent years dug a trench hundreds of miles long to try to prevent criminals and militants circumventing the official border crossing.



Israelis gush over lawmaker’s announcement of baby girl to be raised with gay father
By Andrew Tobin
March 26, 2017

TEL AVIV (JTA) – Israelis welcomed Knesset lawmaker Merav Ben Ari’s announcement that she gave birth to a baby girl, whom she has said she will raise with the baby’s gay father.

Ben Ari, 41, shared the happy news on social media early Sunday, hours after delivering on the first day of the Knesset’s spring break. Alongside a photo of her holding Ariel, her first child, Ben Ari posted a message on Facebook thanking those who have expressed support for her.

“I don’t have much to write except thank you to everyone for all blessing and congratulations on the birth of Ariel our sweetie,” Ben Ari wrote. “Wishing the return to everyone of all the good you wished and even more. A good and successful week to everyone.”

Within a few hours, the post had been liked more than 1,500 times and received several hundred supportive comments, like “What to wish the Knesset’s best voice for mothers?” and “I’m sure the father will also be amazing because otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen him.”

Ben Ari’s post Sunday on Twitter, featuring a photo of Ariel, earned similar well wishes, including from her colleagues.

“Thank you very much to all those who wished me well,” she wrote. “As much as I prepared I did not understand at all until it happened to me. She was well synced with the [Knesset] plenum and on Saturday morning she entered my world, I was moved.”

Yehuda Glick, an Orthodox Jewish Knesset member for the ruling Likud party, responded by writing: “Mazel tov to wonderful Merav on the birth of her charming daughter.”

Ben Ari, an unmarried Knesset member for the centrist Kulanu party, told JTA in October that she had been nervous to go public with her unconventional pregnancy in an interview with Israeli daily Yedioth Aharanoth. But she said the response by Israelis and Knesset members from across the political spectrum had been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s not easy here because most people know how a family is supposed to look: a mother, a father and children who live together,” Ben Ari said. But “I got really, really good comments about the article, from politicians, from people I know, from people I don’t know.”

“I really want to inspire women not to be afraid of taking this step,” she added

Ben Ari first came to the country’s attention in 2005 when she won the reality show “Needed: A Leader.” With the $1.3 million in prize money, she set up a chain of centers for at-risk youth in the central cities of Netanya and Herzliya, which she ran until being elected to the Tel Aviv City Council in 2013. In 2015, she joined the new Kulanu party and was elected to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

Ben Ari and her close friend Ofir, whose last name she did not provide, agreed in writing to try in vitro fertilization together and to raise the child as a team. A 41-year-old finance manager, Ofir, lives down the block from Ben Ari in Tel Aviv and is in a relationship with another man. Ben Ari said she planned to continue looking for love and to return to the Knesset for the start of the summer session in May.


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

Israeli-American teen arrested for wave of bomb threats against U.S. Jews (& “Tomb of Jesus reopens”)

March 23, 2017

While Iran’s Supreme Leader, in his address to the nation for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, claimed that global feminism is a “Zionist plot”, U.S. President Trump sent warm New Year greetings to the Iranian people.



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach several articles below.

In the first, The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli authorities (in coordination with the FBI and other international agencies) have arrested a 19-year-old U.S.-born Israeli-American dual citizen on suspicion of instigating over 100 bomb threats against Jewish institutions and communities in the U.S., Europe, Australia and New Zealand over the past six months.

The Israeli paper Haaretz adds that Israeli police say the arrested teenager used advanced technology and voice-altering equipment. During the Israeli cyber unit’s raid on the teen’s home, police found a computer lab with sophisticated encryption and transmission systems.

These dispatches have often touched on the subject of Jewish self-hate, especially among far left Jewish journalists and academics who have demonized Israel and Jews in general, though Jewish self-hate is sometimes found on the far-right too.

As I have pointed out before, the subject of Jewish self-hate is a powerful and in many ways understudied phenomenon. It is often based on “Stockholm syndrome”-type psychological abuse, where an oppressed person tries to side with or identify with his persecutor or oppressor.

Earlier this month, a former left-wing journalist, Juan Thompson (who is African-American), was arrested in the U.S. and charged with making at least eight bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League. (See item 9 here for my comments on the distorted media coverage concerning that arrest.)

(The phenomenon of self-hate can also occasionally be found among homosexuals and others minorities. It seems that the more persecuted the minority is, the more likely it is to occur.)


1. “Dual U.S.-Israeli citizen behind most JCC bomb threat calls” (Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2017)
2. “Israeli-American teen arrested in Israel for JCC bomb threats” (JTA, March 23, 2017)
3. “Iran’s Supreme Leader says feminism is a “Zionist plot”” (The Independent, March 21, 2017)
4. “Trump celebrates Persian New Year” (The Hill, Washington, March 22, 2017)
5. “‘Hero’ MP Tobias Ellwood tried to save stabbed officer” (BBC News, March 23, 2017)
6. “Erdogan warns Europeans ‘will not walk safely’ if attitude persists” (Reuters, March 22, 2017)
7. “Tomb of Jesus Reopens to Public After $3 Million Restoration” (New York Times, March 22, 2017)




Dual U.S.-Israeli citizen behind most JCC bomb threat calls
By Yonah Jeremy Bob
Jerusalem Post
March 23, 2017

Israeli authorities have arrested an 19-year-old suspect on suspicion of instigating a series of threats to Jewish communities in the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand over the past six months.

An 19-year-old dual US-Israeli citizen from Ashkelon has been arrested on suspicion of standing behind most of a series of bomb and other threats to Jewish communities ranging from the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand over the past six months, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

As of Thursday, with a gag order on the probe lifted by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, which extended his detention, sources indicate that most of the cases of threats against Jewish communities and organizations, though not all, led investigators back to Israel.

The first threat, which stood out and was picked up on by Israeli investigators, occurred in New Zealand around six month ago and led to the opening of the investigation.

Israel has been the lead coordinator with a number of other involved countries throughout the course of the probe.

The suspect used complex methods to shield himself from identification, and law enforcement had to use a variety of their own complex methods to find him.

Law enforcement finally searched the suspect’s house on Thursday and are only now fully being able to piece together the breadth and methodology of his operations.

There are still few details available about the suspect’s profile, but he is not in the IDF, not ultra-Orthodox, and at some point made aliya and possibly has psychological and social problems.

The suspect’s father has also been detained and is being questioned as to whether he knew about the suspect’s activities, including the suspect’s use of a large antenna and other unusual hardware which could have drawn suspicion.

It is unknown how many others might have worked with the suspect, but it is believed that he was the main operator of the scare-spree and might have even acted completely on his own.

As of Thursday, it was still unclear what the suspect’s motivations were for the scare-spree which made international headlines. In light of the threats, US President Donald Trump faced accusations that he was light on fighting antisemitism when he did not initially condemn the scares along with some vandalism of Jewish graves, which presumably were not connected to the suspect.

Israel intends to indict the suspect in its own courts, but it is unknown as of Thursday whether other countries like the US might also seek to extradite and try him for his alleged crimes.

Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told the Post that, “this is one of the numerous ongoing police operations that take place with other international security and intelligence organizations in order to try to find suspects.”

“This specific investigation was complex in terms of the suspect and its nature and there was a significant breakthrough in the investigation which led us to make the arrest of the suspect who lives in Southern Israel,” he said.

Rosenfeld continued, noting that “he was the main suspect behind the numerous amount of threats which were made to different Jewish communities and organizations around the world.”

Further, Rosenfeld said that, “as part of the ongoing investing, we are trying to see if and how he was connected to the different Jewish communities in the US. That directs the investigation as to the American connection. We are looking to see if there was an incident which triggered him to carry out threatening those communities.”



Israeli-American teen arrested in Israel for JCC bomb threats
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
March 23, 2017

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli teenager who also has American citizenship was arrested on suspicion of carrying out more than 100 bomb threats on Jewish institutions in the United States.

Israel’s anti-fraud squad arrested the 19-year-old suspect at his home in southern Israel and searched the premises on Thursday. He also is accused of a series of threats made in Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the past six months, according to reports in Israel.

Israeli police said the teen has been the subject of months-long undercover investigation by the anti-fraud unit, as well as the FBI in the United States and law enforcement in other countries. He has lived in Israel for many years, Haaretz reported.

He was scheduled to appear in court in Rishon Lezion on Thursday for a remand hearing. His motives are unknown, according to reports.

While the teen will be indicted in Israel, it is likely that the United States will request his extradition to be tried there.

The teen reportedly used advanced technology and voice-altering equipment to call in the threats to more than 100 JCCs, Jewish day schools and other Jewish institutions in the United States, according to The Times of Israel. He also is accused of making a threatening call to Delta Airlines, leading to the emergency landing of at least one plane.

During the cyber unit’s raid on the teen’s home, police found a computer lab with sophisticated equipment, encryption and transmission systems, and a powerful antenna, according to reports.

The army refused to draft the teen after finding him unfit for service, Haaretz reported.

His father also has been detained on suspicion that he knew about his son’s activities, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, commented on the teen’s arrest.

“I congratulate the Israeli police on leading a complex international investigation, together with law enforcement agencies from around the world, which led to the arrest of the suspect,” Erdan said. “We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government.”

Earlier this month, a St. Louis resident and former journalist, Juan Thompson, was arrested and charged for making at least eight bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League.

Thompson, 31, made some of the threats in the name of a former romantic partner he had been cyberstalking and some in his own in an attempt to portray himself as being framed. He was charged with cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.



Iran’s Supreme Leader says feminism is a “Zionist plot”
By Lizzie Dearden
The Independent (London)
March 21, 2017

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a meeting of religious speakers that Iranians should resist feminist ideas and instead hold the Prophet Mohamed’s daughter Fatimah as their ideal.

“Making women a commodity and an object of gratification in the Western world is most likely among Zionist plots aiming to destroy the society,” he said, according to a

“Today, Western thinkers and those who pursue issues such as gender equality regret the corruption which it has brought about.”

Khamenei claimed that men and women are equal in the “ascendance of spiritual positions, the power of leadership, and the capability to lead humankind”, but that some tasks for women “collapse and humiliate” their primary roles as housewives and mothers.

A report by the government-controlled Mehr news agency said the Supreme Leader “expressed hope that views of those who raised similar [gender equality] issues inside Iran were not based on the Western misconception”.

Iranian women are heavily restricted in their personal and public lives, including with state-enforced dress codes, curbs on higher education courses, jobs and sporting activities open to them, and freedom of movement under controls requiring a husband’s signature to leave the country.

Many have been rallying round movements like My Stealthy Freedom, which combats the compulsory hijab, but women found to have broken “morality” laws have been arrested and forced into public apologies.

Among them are women detained for breaking a fatwa issued by Khamenei to ban women cycling in public – claiming it “attracts the attention of men and…contravenes women’s chastity” - as well as others arrested for posting “vulgar” photos without headscarves on Instagram.

Iranian religious leaders frequently cast pushes towards gender equality as part of conspiracy by the West or enemy “Zionists” in Israel.

Earlier this month, Khamenei issued a speech warning that “cultural attacks by the enemy are more dangerous than military attacks”, hitting out at human rights groups and think tanks.

Urging Iranians to resist using their “cultural wealth”, he called for renewed holy war, adding: “What is cultural wealth? For example, willingness for and belief in jihad is an example of cultural wealth.”

The Supreme Leader has recently engaged in a public dispute with Donald Trump, accusing the US President of disrespecting Iran and calling mass protests.

Mr Trump sparked anger in Tehran following a series of Twitter tirades following its test launch of a ballistic missile, after repeatedly attacking the landmark nuclear deal struck by his predecessor and calling the country “#1 in terror”.

Iranian leaders claimed the launch, which sparked international concern, did not violate the terms of the agreement with world powers in 2015 to constrain its nuclear capabilities.



Trump celebrates Persian New Year
By Jordan Fabian
The Hill (Washington)
March 22, 2017 briefing-room/news-other- administration/325177-trump- celebrates-persian-new-year

President Trump on Wednesday marked the Persian new year, Nowruz, amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

“To the Iranian people and all those around the world celebrating Nowruz: On behalf of the American people, I wish you freedom, dignity, and wealth,” Trump said in a statement.

The president recognized Iranian-Americans as “one of the most successful immigrant groups in our country’s contemporary history” who “share an affection for their ancestral heritage” despite their diverse religious backgrounds.

Trump said the holiday’s theme of new beginnings is “a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land.”

Until Wednesday, it was unclear whether Trump would continue the tradition issuing Nowruz greetings. He has taken a much harder line against Tehran than former President Barack Obama, who brokered a nuclear deal with the longtime U.S. foe.

Trump has twice included Iran on a list of countries whose citizens were temporarily banned from entering the country over what he said are terrorism concerns. Both executive orders on travel have been blocked by federal courts.

The president also dispatched then-national security adviser Michael Flynn to the White House briefing room to put Iran “on notice” in response to recent ballistic missile tests.

And Trump has repeatedly criticized the nuclear deal, most recently during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“One of the things I asked him was why did President Obama sign that agreement for Iran, because nobody has been able to figure that one out,” the president said. “Maybe someday we’ll be able to figure it out.”

Obama tried to use his Nowruz messages to forge closer ties with Iran and persuade its leaders to support the nuclear agreement.



‘Hero’ MP Tobias Ellwood tried to save stabbed officer
BBC News
23 March 2017

Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood has been called a “hero” after he was pictured giving first aid to PC Keith Palmer, one of the casualties of the London terror attack.
PC Palmer was stabbed by the attacker, who was shot by police.

Mr Ellwood, a Conservative MP and former Army officer, performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on PC Palmer in New Palace Yard, Westminster.

Four people, including the police officer and the attacker, died.

At least 40 people were injured, including three other officers.

Eyewitnesses described scenes of panic as the attacker was shot several times as he approached a second police officer close to the Houses of Parliament.
Paramedics fought to save his life, and that of his victim, on the floor of the cobbled courtyard in front of Parliament.

Mr Ellwood - whose brother died in the Bali terrorist bombing in 2002 - was among those who rushed to help and attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of injured PC Palmer.

His friend of 20 years, Conservative MP Adam Afriyie, told the BBC he saw him heading towards the scene despite police instructions to rush to safety.

Photographs showed the MP’s bloodied hands and face as he applied pressure to the officer’s wounds.

Tobias Ellwood is a former Army officer, whose brother died in the 2002 Bali terrorist bombing

His actions attracted admiration from his Westminster colleagues.

Conservative MP Ben Howlett tweeted: “Tobias Ellwood is an absolute hero for what he did to help the policeman this afternoon!”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “Today, Tobias gave MPs a good name.

“He was utterly heroic, pure and simple. He went above and beyond and did all he could to save a police officer.”

The Bournemouth East MP is a Foreign Office minister, with the Middle East, Africa and counter terrorism listed among the areas within his brief.



Erdogan warns Europeans ‘will not walk safely’ if attitude persists, as row carries on
By Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu
March 22, 2017

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Europeans would not be able to walk safely on the streets if they kept up their current attitude toward Turkey, his latest salvo in a row over campaigning by Turkish politicians in Europe.

Turkey has been embroiled in a dispute with Germany and the Netherlands over campaign appearances by Turkish officials seeking to drum up support for an April 16 referendum that could boost Erdogan’s powers.

Ankara has accused its European allies of using “Nazi methods” by banning Turkish ministers from addressing rallies in Europe over security concerns. The comments have led to a sharp deterioration in ties with the European Union, which Turkey still aspires to join.

“Turkey is not a country you can pull and push around, not a country whose citizens you can drag on the ground,” Erdogan said at an event for Turkish journalists in Ankara, in comments broadcast live on national television.

“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets. Europe will be damaged by this. We, as Turkey, call on Europe to respect human rights and democracy,” he said.

Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier used his first speech as president on Wednesday to warn Erdogan that he risked destroying everything his country had achieved in recent years, and that he risked damaging diplomatic ties.

“The way we look (at Turkey) is characterized by worry, that everything that has been built up over years and decades is collapsing,” Steinmeier said in his inaugural speech in the largely ceremonial role.

He called for an end to the “unspeakable Nazi comparisons.”

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said earlier that although Turkish government officials were still taking part in events for expatriate Turks across Europe, they were not campaigning for the referendum.

The Union of European Turkish Democrats, which organizes events in Europe, said on Tuesday that Turkish leaders would no longer hold campaign rallies in Germany after an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were not welcome.

Germany, home to some 1.4 million Turks eligible to vote in the referendum, has been angered by the Nazi comparisons and Merkel has demanded that Ankara halt the rhetoric. Erdogan, however, has repeated the message in speech after speech.

The Netherlands, also home to a large ethnic Turkish diaspora, has been embroiled in a similar row with Turkey.

Kurtulmus, who is also the Turkish government’s chief spokesman, repeated the rhetoric on Wednesday, saying the “footsteps of neo-Nazism and extreme racism” could be heard in Europe.

Another deputy prime minister, Veysi Kaynak, meanwhile criticized Norway for granting asylum to Turkish military officers suspected of links to the religious network accused by Ankara of orchestrating last July’s coup attempt.

“This, unfortunately, in my opinion, is the first sign that Europe, which suffered from civil wars that cost the lives of innocent people for hundreds of years, ... is turning into that Dark Age again,” Kaynak was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency as saying.

The Turkish foreign ministry’s spokesman said later on Wednesday that the ministry had summoned the Norwegian ambassador to Ankara to express Turkey’s concerns over Norway’s decision to grant asylum to the individuals.

Since the failed coup, which Ankara says was orchestrated by U.S.-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, some 40,000 people have been arrested in Turkey and more than 100,000 sacked or suspended from the military, civil service and private sector, while others have sought asylum abroad.

The foreign ministry’s spokesman said Turkey would continue to pursue the matter.


See also: Turkish anti-Semitism during Dutch protests.

And also the picture at the top of this dispatch.



Tomb of Jesus Reopens to Public After $3 Million Restoration
By Russell Goldman
New York Times
March 22, 2017

Thousands of Christian pilgrims and members of the clergy gathered at a modest shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday to celebrate the completion of a monthslong effort, hundreds of years in the making: The restoration and repair of Jesus’ tomb.

The shrine, known as the edicule and in danger of collapse, had been propped up by an unsightly iron cage since the 19th century. Constructed by the Roman emperor Constantine I in the fourth century, the shrine covers the cave in which, the faithful believe, Jesus was buried before his resurrection.

The edifice, contained in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is one of the faith’s holiest sites. It was worn down by centuries of water damage, fire, candle smoke, humidity, bird droppings, human visitors and disputes among feuding denominations, who share control of the church but were previously unable to agree on plans to fix the shrine.

“For the first time in over two centuries, this sacred edicule has been restored,” said the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem on Wednesday, when the restored shrine reopened to the public. “This is not only a gift to our holy land, but to the whole world.”

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the church. The tomb was last restored in 1810 after a fire, but the religious custodians were compelled last year to make repairs after the Israeli authorities deemed the building unsafe.

The restoration cost more than $3 million, financed mostly by a donation from the World Monuments Fund, an American nonprofit organization. Other funding came from the three denominations and a personal donation from King Abdullah II of Jordan.

The work, which began in May 2016, was directed by Antonia Moropoulou, a professor at the National Technical University of Athens. The restorers removed the exterior stones from three sides of the edicule and created a special grout to “bond the masonry to the rock that lies at the core of the structure,” according to the World Monuments Fund.

In October, the restoration team revealed and removed a stone slab covering a marble bench on which Jesus was buried, according to tradition. The team also created an opening in a wall in the tomb, through which visitors can peer at the underlying rock.


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

“The Israelization of anti-Semitism” (& Turkish anti-Semitism during Dutch protests)

March 14, 2017

At a time when anti-Semitism appears to be rising, The Times of London takes the unusual step today of running as its main front page photo a positive picture of orthodox Jewish children celebrating Purim yesterday.



[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch mainly concerns Western anti-Semitism. There appears to have been a rise in attacks and threats towards Jews this year, particularly in the U.S., which is of course disturbing.

We should remember, however, that there were quite a number of bomb threats and anti-Semitic attacks, including deaths, before Donald Trump entered politics and the anti-Trump media didn’t run the kind of perhaps overly alarmist stories some are now running.

See for example, this dispatch from 2014: Three dead (including a 14-year-old boy and an elderly woman) in pre-Passover shootings at Jewish buildings in Kansas City

Abe Foxman, a Democrat who until recently served as director of the Anti-Defamation League, and spent a lifetime calling out any expression of anti-Semitism, big or small, makes a similar point in the interview below, saying Jewish leaders and the media should stay calm – at least for the time being.



1. The biggest Israeli hi-tech deal in history
2. Dutch media: “Muslims shout anti-Semitic slogans during Dutch protests”
3. Fillon’s French party apologizes for “anti-Semitic” cartoon of presidential rival
4. “Metal music still has an unaddressed Nazi problem” (March 6, 2017)
5. “Anti-Semites are becoming bolder in Britain, and that should worry us all” (Daily Telegraph, March 8, 2017)
6. “At least 7 U.S., Canadian JCCs receive bomb threats on Purim” (JTA, March 13, 2017)
7. “NY Jewish Children’s Museum hit with bomb threat” (JTA, March 9, 2017)
8. “Two more bomb threats hit Silicon Valley, Brooklyn” (JTA, March 10, 2017)
9. “Abe Foxman says wave of anti-Semitic hate is no ‘crisis’” (Forward, March 5, 2017)
10. “The Jewish right is dead wrong for downplaying anti-Semitism” (Forward, March 8, 2017)
11. “The Israelization of anti-Semitism” (Boston Globe, March 9, 2017)
12. “In Atlanta, anti-Semitism is viewed through lens of history” (AP, March 3, 2017)


[Notes by Tom Gross]


Despite the fact that international anti-Semites are increasingly trying to jump on the “boycott Israel” campaign, the Israeli economy continues to prosper.

Today U.S. chipmaker Intel announced that it would buy the Israeli company Mobileye, the world leader in making autonomous driving technology, for $15.3bn. The deal is the largest ever cross-border acquisition of an Israeli company.

Mobileye, which is based in Jerusalem, is working with many of the world’s biggest auto manufacturers to pave the way for self-driving cars and trucks.

Mobileye was co-founded in 1999 by a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The company was previously best known for inventing the technology now used in cars throughout the world to alert drivers to obstacles when parking, using an Israeli-developed sensor system.



Holland’s second largest circulation daily newspaper, Algemeen Dagblan, reports today that hundreds of Muslims shouted anti-Semitic slogans as violent clashes erupted with Dutch police yesterday following the Dutch government’s refusal to allow a nationalist Turkish Cabinet minister to campaign in Holland for Turkish President Erdogan.

After a false rumor spread that the visiting Turkish minister had been arrested, the crowd gathered in front of the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam and began shorting “Jews are our cancer” and “Jews out,” shortly before the outbreak of violence that led to the injury of five persons, according to the Dutch press. To my knowledge there were no Jews involved in the Dutch decision to ban the Turkish minister.



The French Republican party, led by Francois Fillon, apologized yesterday for tweeting what some said was an anti-Semitic caricature of rival presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

On Friday, the French Republicans posted and then quickly deleted an image of the centrist Macron with a hooked nose, a top hat and cutting a cigar with a red sickle, based on an anti-Semitic cartoon used in Vichy France when the government collaborated with the Nazis to round up and kill Jews.

Fillon slammed the image as “unacceptable.” He said that the cartoon “evoked the images of a dark period of our history and exploited an ideology that I have always fought against. I will not tolerate my party using caricatures that use the themes of anti-Semitic propaganda.”

Macron is not Jewish. The first round of France presidential election is on April 23. Macron, Fillon and the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, are the three leading contenders according to the polls.


I attach several articles below. See also:

Metal music still has an unaddressed Nazi problem
By David Anthony
March 6, 2017



Anti-Semites are becoming bolder in Britain, and that should worry us all
By Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Anti-Semitism
Daily Telegraph (UK)
March 8, 2017

Today in Britain, it is practically impossible for a Jewish layperson to achieve a prosecution for an anti-Semitic hate crime. I see you raising an eyebrow, so I will explain.

Recently my charity was approached by a non-Jewish lady who had been mistaken for a Jew and consequently borne the brunt of unsolicited threats and abuse whilst minding her own business in a busy public place. As a non-Jew, she expected that her abuser would be swiftly investigated and prosecuted. Unfortunately victims of anti-Semitism experience a very different reality, as she soon found out.

But the Chairman of Campaign Against Anti-Semitism would have no such difficulty, you might think. It is certainly what I thought. Let me tell you my story. On 4th July 2015, neo-Nazis planned to march through Golders Green, the heart of Jewish London, during the Jewish Sabbath. That was unacceptable to the Met, so they proposed confining the neo-Nazi “anti Jewification” march to the memorial at the centre of Golders Green to those who died fighting the Nazis.

Only when we threatened a large counterprotest which threatened to cause traffic problems did the Met decide to move the neo-Nazis to a kettling pen in Westminster. I decided to go along and see what they had to say. Most did their best to stay within the law on incitement, which meant that their speeches were angry, rants against an unspecified “you know who”, but when Jeremy Bedford-Turner took the mic, he felt no constraints.

Even his audience of neo-Nazi thugs seemed surprised by his candour as he intoned that “...all politicians are nothing but a bunch of puppets dancing to a Jewish tune, and the ruling regimes in the West for the last one hundred years have danced to the same tune.”

Evoking medieval libels which claimed that Jews drank the blood of non-Jewish children, Bedford-Turner told his followers, that the French Revolution and both World Wars were massacres perpetrated by Jews. He concluded that England was “merry” during the period of the expulsion of Jews from England and concluded with a call to “free England from Jewish control.”

This is out-and-out incitement of the kind that is criminalised because history shows us where it leads. I reported Bedford-Turner’s speech to the police, and presented them with the video the neo-Nazis had helpfully placed online. Most Jewish people would at this point encounter apathy from the Met. Perhaps because I run a national charity which works with Downing Street and the Home Office, and because my evidence was incontrovertible, the case was passed straight to the Crown Prosecution Service’s counterterrorism division. And that is where the trail went cold.

After five months I asked the Chief Crown Prosecutor for London to obtain a charging decision. By return, I received e-mails from the CPS informing me that Bedford-Turner was “entitled” to engage in such incitement. I requested the so-called Victim’s Right to Review and that was declined on the basis that his speech did no harm, and that it targeted all Jews, and I could not be the victim as I am not “all Jews”. I met the Chief Executive of the CPS and the Director of Public Prosecutions but they were unmoved. I threatened legal action and was told to do my worst. And so to the High Court, where a pro bono legal team, led by Brian Kennelly QC, supported by junior counsel Jamie Susskind and solicitor David Sonn challenged the CPS’ decision not to prosecute. After countless pages of legal arguments, 20 months after the speech, a few days before we were due in court, the CPS capitulated. Their surrender was unequivocal. But all that this means is that the CPS must reconsider its decision not to prosecute.

It may yet start the process all over again by finding new reasons not to prosecute. And that is why it is practically impossible for a Jewish layperson to achieve a prosecution for an anti-Semitic hate crime. Our criminal justice system is failing badly.

Anti-Semitic crime in our country is rising relentlessly, especially violent crime. Anti-Semitism rots society from within. It is the glue that binds the far-right, the gateway drug to Islamist extremism, and the conspiracy theory that excites the far-left. The figures are not yet in for 2016, so at present 2015 stands as the worst year on record for antisemitic hate crime. Of the 15,442 hate crime prosecutions that year, only 12 were for anti-Semitic crime.

Britain is one of the best places in the world to be Jewish, but it is also one of the safest in which to be an anti-Semite. Anti-Semites are becoming bolder, and Jews are increasingly fearful for their future. Once again, Jews are on the front line and that should worry everyone.



At least 7 JCCs receive bomb threats on Purim
March 13, 2017

At least seven Jewish community centers in the United States and Canada received bomb threats while they were hosting Purim events.

The threats, either called in or emailed, were reported Sunday at JCCs in Rochester, New York; Chicago; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Cleveland; Houston, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Most of the JCCs were evacuated and searched. None of the threats turned out to be credible.

For some of the centers it was their second threat in the past week.

The threats are part of a wave that has hit JCCs, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions since the start of 2017. More than 150 threats have been received since the beginning of the year, according to the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security across Jewish organizations in North America.

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the second such threat against the Rochester JCC in less than a week “a despicable and cowardly act” of anti-Semitism. Cuomo ordered the New York State Police to launch a more intense investigation into the threats, and to work with federal and local law enforcement on the investigation.

“Like all New Yorkers, I am profoundly disturbed and disgusted by the continued threats against the Jewish community in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As New Yorkers, we will not be intimidated and we will not stand by silently as some seek to sow hate and division. New York is one family, and an attack on one is an attack on all.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he plans to provide additional law enforcement intelligence and staffing to the JCC in Milwaukee so it “continues to be a safe place” after it was evacuated Sunday for the fourth time in six weeks.

Meanwhile, a rally was held Sunday outside the Rady Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, which was evacuated due to a bomb threat on Thursday, “to send a signal of unity against fear and terrorism.”



Two more bomb threats hit Jewish centers in Silicon Valley, Brooklyn
March 10, 2017

A Jewish Community Center in Silicon Valley and a Brooklyn Jewish senior center both received bomb threats.

The Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos, California, was evacuated Thursday after receiving a bomb threat at 11:45 a.m. The building also includes a day school and the local offices of the Jewish federation and Jewish Family Services, a social service group.

According to a Facebook post by the center, the evacuation proceeded smoothly and police came with canine units to investigate. By 4:50 p.m., law enforcement determined that the threat was a hoax and everyone returned to the building.

Another bomb threat was received Friday morning by the Jasa Senior Citizen Center in Brooklyn, New York, via text message, according to News12 Brooklyn. The threat came one day after the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn was evacuated due to a threat.

These latest threats come days after a wave of bomb threats Wednesday hit 20 JCCs, day schools and offices of the Anti-Defamation League. In total, more than 100 bomb threats have targeted Jewish institutions since the beginning of the year.



NY Jewish Children’s Museum hit with bomb threat
By Josefin Dolsten
March 9, 2017

NEW YORK – The Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn was evacuated after receiving an emailed bomb threat.

The museum was evacuated Thursday morning following a call to the police, AM New York reported.

Devorah Halberstam, the museum’s director of foundation and government services, told JTA the evacuation was still ongoing as of 11:15 a.m.

“It’s a trying time for us as a Jewish people especially, and we need to be aware and we need to take heed, and we need to be careful,” Halberstam said.

She added: “I’m referring to all the threats that have been going on both locally and internationally – it’s something that is very frightening. Unfortunately anti-Semitism has been around for the longest time and I guess things don’t change, now it’s done by emails and phone calls. They use technology to hide behind it.”

Jewish institutions, including community centers and Anti-Defamation League offices, have been hit with more than 100 bomb threats so far this year, all of them hoaxes. Tuesday and Wednesday saw the sixth wave of threats, with 21 Jewish sites targeted in the United States and Canada.

Last week, the New York Police Department said that anti-Semitic incidents were up 94 percent in New York City over this time last year.



Abe Foxman Says Wave Of Anti-Semitic Hate Is No ‘Crisis’ – And Jews Should Lay Off Trump
By Nathan Guttman
The Forward
March 5, 2017

Abraham Foxman has been delivering a surprising message to Jewish leaders in recent weeks: Stay calm and lay off President Trump.

“I’m telling them: ‘Cool it, cool it,’” he said, “But it’s very tough. People are very emotional.”

The former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who had spent a lifetime calling out any expression of anti-Semitism, big or small, spoke to the Forward amid a wave threats to dozens of Jewish community centers and vandalism incidents targeting Jewish cemeteries.

“Serious but not critical” is how Foxman views this wave of hate crimes. That’s why he is sounding a contrarian voice to the Jewish leadership and urging it to ease off on President Trump.

Foxman spoke before the arrest of a St. Louis man for allegedly making several of the JCC threats.

He said he was satisfied that Trump condemned anti-Jewish attacks during his address to Congress Tuesday, after seemingly avoiding taking a firm stance.

“OK, enough. He uttered the words,” Foxman said. “Now its time for law enforcement to do the work.”

Foxman is no Trump supporter and he tries to remain non-partisan even after retiring from three decades at the helm of the Anti-Defamation League.

Even though Foxman believes Trump empowered haters with his appeals to far right wing white nationalists, he does not think the president himself is a bigot.

“He legitimized it, but he did not create it,” Foxman said. “Trump is not an anti-Semite.”

Foxman, who now heads the center for study of anti-Semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in in New York, believes the Jewish community is making a serious mistake in trying to pin the raise of anti-Semitism on Trump and in expecting the president to come up with the answer to the problem.

Instead, he suggests the community take a step back from political score-settling and focus on the culture in the country that has created the wave of hate.

“We woke after the elections up to discover that our country is not as loving of each other as we’d like it to be,” he said. “It’s convenient for us to blame (Trump).”

He believes, in fact, that Trump is “slowly, slowly” beginning to “put the cover back” on the sewers where anti-Semites and bigots thrive.

The danger, Foxman believe, is with the Jewish community’s reaction to the rise in anti-Semitic incidents. He argued that the issue “has been hijacked politically by Democrats who’ve made it a political issue to attack Trump, and by Republicans who have made it a political issue to defend him.”

Foxman believes that the demand that Trump come up with a plan to combat the anti-Semitic attacks is misguided, since it is up to the Jewish community to suggest such plans.

“The whole issue has become a political football and that doesn’t serve us,” he added.

Foxman sought to offer some historical perspective, which, he believes, would put the recent surge in threats and attacks against Jews in the right perspective. He pointed to ADL and FBI annual reports that find, year after year, Jews to be the leading target of hate crimes in America, and to polls that show 10 to 12% of Americans are “seriously infected” with anti-Semitism.

During his years at the ADL, Foxman experienced incidents where Jews and non-Jews were killed in anti-Semitic attacks including in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and in Washington. Those deadly incidents put the wave of bomb threats at Jewish community centers and synagogues into perspective.

“I am not shocked that this is happening,” Foxman said. “What we’re seeing now is serious, but it is not a crisis.”

Would an earlier response from President Trump make a difference? Foxman is skeptical.

“Does anyone think that had he condemned it earlier we wouldn’t have threats to 90 JCCs? I don’t think so,” he responded. “It would have made us feel better. But that’s all.”



The Jewish right is dead wrong for downplaying anti-Semitism
By Jane Eisner
The Forward
March 8, 2017

Even though nearly half of the country’s Jewish community centers have received bomb threats; swastikas have defaced schools, colleges and synagogues, and cemeteries have been desecrated, there still seems to be a question about whether America is really experiencing a surge of anti-Semitism.

Mystifyingly, other Jews are asking the question. While those skeptics decry the politicization of anti-Semitism by forces opposed to President Trump, they are guilty of doing the very same thing in support of his agenda.

Jews have long been the largest target of hate crimes, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, a political conservative commentator, wrote in a recent piece. And, she argues, what is happening now may be the result of just better reporting, not necessarily more hate.

Or, as Evelyn Gordon argued in Commentary in January, the rhetoric of the far right is more benign than the actions of the anti-Israel (and therefore anti-Jewish) far left.

Even Abe Foxman, who spent half a century at the Anti-Defamation League calling out every Hollywood star, fashion designer and pro athlete who so much as uttered an anti-Semitic phrase, recently told the Forward that what we are experiencing is “serious, but not critical.”

“We woke up after the elections to discover that our country is not as loving of each other as we’d like it to be,” said Foxman, who now runs a center for the study of anti-Semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in New York. “It’s convenient for us to blame [Trump.]”

I wonder whether his former colleagues share his sanguine attitude, after they had to deal with a new wave of bomb threats at ADL offices just the other day. (“Another day, another bomb threat,” one sardonically told me.)

ADL employees are professionally prepared for this brutal battle. But how about the parents of the 4-year-olds evacuated out of day care at the JCC? Or the senior citizens told to rush out of threatened buildings, even when it may be difficult for them to move?

What about the descendants of Jews whose final resting places were destroyed and defamed, their grief compounded by seeing gravestones callously toppled into the ground?

As a journalist, I’m trained not to jump on bandwagons but instead to skeptically view the parade from the sidelines and, in so doing, to challenge the easy narrative. Even in the past few months, as my colleagues and I have received hateful, anti-Semitic messages more virulent than anything I’ve seen in decades, I’ve tried to moderate my shock, put it into context. Twitter didn’t exist years ago. Volume doesn’t always correspond to depth.

Desecrating Jewish cemeteries is, alas, a common tactic to erase Jewish history and memory. Which is why the Nazis deliberately dismantled Jewish burial grounds in Germany, Poland and across the swath of Europe they once controlled, using the stolen gravestones as paved stones on roads.

It is why the Jordanians destroyed tens of thousands of Jewish graves ) on the Mount of Olives when they controlled East Jerusalem, using the stones for buildings or latrines. (And why Palestinians were so upset about plans to build a museum in downtown West Jerusalem on an ancient Muslim gravesite.)

It is why local and state governments enact specific laws against desecrating cemeteries. A burial ground is not just another piece of public or private property. It has a recognized sacred purpose.

Even if this has happened before, however, I am baffled by those in our community who would minimize the pain when it happens now.

The same holds true for the intentional disruption caused by the repeated series of bomb threats against JCCs and schools around the country. No deaths or injuries, thank goodness, but low-grade terror, nonetheless. Is that to be discounted, too? A man arrested for making eight of those bomb threats seems unconnected to right-wing politics, but what about the roughly 100 other cases?

This surge – and that is the accurate word here – of anti-Semitism is confusing because it occurs against a backdrop of continued public admiration of Jews and Judaism in America. This is not Nazi Germany, where ever-larger numbers of citizens participated in or enabled the discrimination that turned into the Holocaust. Nor is it government sanctioned – not when the president (finally) denounced it and when all 100 senators demanded that the administration do more.

So while Foxman is right to caution against hysteria – and he’s no Trump supporter – there’s an undeniable connection to the anti-Semitic forces unleashed by the Trump campaign and given social permission even by top White House officials. It may be politically expedient to say so. It also is true.

The Jewish left has been rightly criticized for overlooking blatant anti-Semitism or its disguised anti-Israel counterpart spewing from its radical siblings. But the Jewish right is engaging in the same delusional tactic to protect a president who claims he will be a better friend of Israel without so far offering any proof.

Sacrificing concern about Jews at home for politics abroad only hurts us all.



The Israelization of anti-Semitism
By Monika Schwarz-Friesel and Jehuda Reinharz
The Boston Globe
March 9, 2017

In the twenty-first century, criticism of Israel that is grounded in antisemitic thinking and aimed at Jews in general has become the dominant verbal form in which Judeophobic ideas are articulated and disseminated. Between 2002 and 2012, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin and the Central Council of Jews in Germany received over 14,000 emails, letters, postcards and faxes from all regions of Germany. Figuring that this material could provide us a window into the contemporary German mind vis-à-vis Israel, we conducted a study of these messages and found that the vast majority began with criticisms of Israel’s policies but immediately deteriorated into antisemitic assaults. We call this phenomenon the “Israelization of Antisemitism.”

We found a similar pattern in a smaller study of over 2000 emails sent by citizens of eight European countries to their Israeli Embassies. We believe that the results are representative of similar antisemitic discourse worldwide, including in the United States, as a recent ADL investigation showed that 2.6 million antisemitic messages were posted on Twitter between August 2015 and July 2016. To be certain that we did not conflate anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments, we defined in advance the definitions of criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Jewish hatred.

Another startling conclusion of our study was that, contrary to popular assumptions, it is not exclusively alt-right, neo-Nazis and/or extreme left-wingers who think this way. On the contrary, the language of contemporary antisemitism, as in the past, is anchored in and spread by the educated mainstream as much as by fringe groups. Rather than physical attacks on Jews – with some exceptions – today’s assaults are verbal, ideological and cloaked in the guise of a critique of policies of the State of Israel.

Antisemitic attacks throughout the centuries have been grounded in demonizing Jews as the ultimate evil. This concept was found repeatedly in the messages we studied. For example, in one 2007 letter to the Israeli Embassy, the writer states, “The Israelis are and remain, no matter what a show they put on, the greatest racists, war criminals, warmongers, murderers, child-murderers, violators of international law, torturers, robbers and thieves, Nazis, liars, [and] terrorists…” Another message sent to the embassy in 2008 announces plainly, “Here’s one in the kisser for you, you filthy Jew. You’re to blame for the misery in the world!”

In addition to demonization, a second millennia-long antisemitic idea delegitimizes the very existence of Jews, paving the way first for segregation and then elimination or genocide. Just as Jews have no right to exist, it is claimed, a state so abysmally evil and destructive has no right to exist. In the minds of these antisemites, Israel has become the Collective Jew and should be destroyed. Racist delegitimization draws on stereotypes of Jews as exploiters, parasites, and homeless nomads, as in this message from 2006 sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany: “Only dissolution of the Israeli state can counter the Jews’ solidarity and thereby also their highly aggressive tendencies as a united people that ruthlessly indulges its congenital aggression and frustration. The Jews who move away from Israel will then have the possibility of settling elsewhere. In Old Testament times, the Jews were already a nomadic people that emigrated at one point to Egypt, at another to Babylon, the latter, by the way, because of moral turpitude, after which they moved back to Israel.”

Looking at the messages as a whole, there was little variation among the different years except the spikes we noticed during times of military conflict such as the 2014 war in Gaza. This event ignited a storm of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish commentary in Europe and the United States that continues to this day – spread most widely online. It is also interesting to note that these conflagrations were defined always in one-sided terms, with Israel as the sole aggressor. This unilateral framework applies not only to Israel’s military conflict with the Palestinians and Arab States but also to the condemnation of Israel for human-rights violations that are defined as almost exclusively characteristic of Israel in comparison to the records of other countries.

When Israel, the Jewish state, is denounced as uniquely evil and immoral, antisemitism is clearly at play. Modern antisemites have turned “the Jewish problem” into “the Israel problem.” In this world where we are trying to eliminate racism, misogyny, homophobia and more, it is time to include the age-old hatred of Jews as well.



In Atlanta, anti-Semitism is viewed through lens of history
By Jeff Martin
Associated Press
March 3, 2017

ATLANTA (AP) – Amid a surge of bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish institutions nationwide, members of Atlanta’s Jewish community have felt a familiar wave of apprehension about what may come next.

Because all of that, and worse, has happened in the city before.

Six decades ago, during the turmoil of the civil rights era, 50 sticks of dynamite blasted a ragged hole in Atlanta’s largest synagogue. A generation earlier, in 1915, Jewish businessman Leo Frank was lynched during a wave of anti-Semitism.

Some fear that history is once again arcing toward the viperous climate that set the stage for the earlier violence.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the attacks and threats and desecration of Jewish cemeteries in recent days,” said playwright Jimmy Maize, whose play “The Temple Bombing” is on stage this month at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. “I have to say that writing this play feels too much like history repeating itself.”

His play, which addresses anti-Semitism, fear and courage through the drama of the 1958 explosion, was inspired by a book by Atlanta author Melissa Fay Greene.

“We learned over several decades the power of hate speech,” Greene said. “It can lead to people being harmed and killed.”

This past weekend, more than 100 headstones were discovered toppled or damaged at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. In New York, a Rochester cemetery was targeted this week in the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents around the county. Cemetery officials said Thursday at least a dozen grave markers were desecrated.

Jewish community centers and schools in several states also have been targets of recent bomb scares.

On Friday, federal officials said a 31-year-old man is a suspect in at least eight of the threats made against Jewish institutions nationwide, and a bomb threat to New York’s Anti-Defamation League.

Atlanta has played a prominent role in American Jewish life since the late 1800s. Jewish immigrants began some of its most successful businesses, according to the Institute of Southern Jewish Life.

Atlanta was at the forefront of the new, industrial South, and many of its factories were Jewish-owned, said Jeremy Katz, archives director at Atlanta’s William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.

Jewish businessmen gained respect and became community leaders. But their success also led to anti-Semitism from Southerners who felt left behind by the changing economy, said Stuart Rockoff, the former historian for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life.

“There was this push and pull, and it was kind of a powder keg that ignited with the Leo Frank case,” Katz said. “Before the Frank case, Jews were fairly accepted in the community because social lines were drawn by color of skin rather than religion, so Jews really flourished in the South.”

Everything changed on a spring day in 1913, when 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan was found strangled in the cellar of Atlanta’s National Pencil Company. Frank, the factory’s manager, was arrested and put on trial. As newspaper articles inflamed anti-Semitic passions in and around Atlanta, he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Georgia Gov. John Slaton, convinced Frank was innocent, commuted his sentence to life in prison. In August 1915, a mob snatched Frank from the state prison in Milledgeville and drove him to Marietta, where Phagan had lived, and hanged him from an oak tree.

“The Leo Frank case showed that Jews were not immune from that type of violence and discrimination,” Rockoff said.

In the following years, many Jews didn’t speak of the Frank case.

But by the late 1940s, Rabbi Jacob Rothschild at The Temple in Atlanta had begun speaking out against racial injustice in Atlanta, said his son, William Rothschild. Some believe that made the synagogue a target for extremists.

The bomb exploded about 3:30 a.m. Oct. 12, 1958. A few hours later, during Sunday morning classes, “there would have been hundreds of children in the building,” said Peter Berg, now senior rabbi at The Temple. But the children hadn’t yet arrived, and no one was injured.

“I remember feeling emptiness,” recalls Carol Zaban Cooper of Atlanta, who was 14 when her synagogue was bombed, and went on to become active with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. “I felt hollow, numb.”

Alfred Uhry, author of the play and movie “Driving Miss Daisy,” attended The Temple as a child and had just moved to New York when it was bombed. He recalls the horror of seeing a photo of the destruction in The New York Times.

“It showed a side of the building blown off, and I had gone to Sunday school there,” Uhry said.

A bombing suspect’s first trial ended with a hung jury and the second with an acquittal.

Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield said “every political rabble-rouser is the godfather of these cross burners and dynamiters who sneak about in the dark and give a bad name to the South.”

Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill called it a harvest of hate. One day after the blast he wrote, “It is the harvest of defiance of courts and the encouragement of citizens to defy law on the part of many southern politicians.”

“To be sure, none said go bomb a Jewish temple or a school,” he added in the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial. “But let it be understood that when leadership in high places in any degree fails to support constituted authority, it opens the gate to all those who wish to take law into their own hands.”

Racial hatred put everyone in danger, McGill wrote.

“When the wolves of hate are loosed on one people, then no one is safe.”


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

Saudi media claim: “Hamas moves closer to approving 1967 borders” (& 400,000 Turks threat)

March 12, 2017

The headline in this pro-Erdogan Turkish paper today reads: “The Dutch army has only 48,000 troops, but 400,000 Turks are living in the Netherlands.” Bored with threatening Israel, and then Germany, the increasingly dictatorial leader of one of NATO’s key countries, Turkey, is now threatening the Netherlands, the government of which he likened to the Nazis this week. Both countries are members of NATO. Turkey is continuing to carry out virtual war crimes against Kurdish civilians, although western media and human rights groups don’t seem particularly interested in reporting on this.



* Leading Saudi paper: “Hamas moves closer to approving 1967 borders”. Also claims that Hamas will separate from the Muslim Brotherhood and remove “Nazi-like” anti-Semitic passages from the Hamas Charter.

* Iranian revolutionary guards using civilian airliners to hide transfer of weapons and fighters to Syria, Yemen.

* Iran plans to use Iraqi Shia militia to fight Israel (based on Lebanese Hizbullah model?)

* “Bashar Assad’s power over the areas of Syria under government control is slipping. Armed militias are growing stronger and the country’s president can do nothing to stop them.”


I attach several articles from recent days concerning the Arab world. This being the Arab and Iranian media (which contains even more “fake news” than the western media), some of these items should not be treated as fact without secondary sourcing.

The last item, from today’s Haaretz sports pages, concerns a lighter matter.

-- Tom Gross



1. “Hamas moves closer to approving 1967 borders” (Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia, March 8, 2017)
2. “The real cost of Russia’s Syrian campaign” (By John C.K. Daly, The Arab Weekly, March 6, 2017)
3. “Gangster’s Paradise: Assad’s control erodes as warlords gain upper hand” (By Fritz Schaap, Der Spiegel, March 8, 2017)
4. “Arab League chief: situation inappropriate to Syria’s return to League” (Kuwait News Agency, March 8, 2017)
5. “Iraqi Resistance Movement establishes brigade to liberate Golan Heights” (Tasnim News Agency, Tehran, March 8, 2017)
6. “Iran using ‘Mahan Air’ civilian airliners to hide transfer of weapons and fighters to Syria, Yemen” (Memri, March 6, 2017)
7. “Egyptian army colonel killed, 2 soldiers injured in Sinai bombing” (Palestinian Maan News agency, March 9, 2017)
8. “Palestinian President ‘Abbas meets with terrorists and terrorists’ families” (Memri, March 8, 2017)
9. “Palestinian Authority participates in celebrations in Israeli city for released terrorist (Memri, March 7, 2017)
10. “President Abbas meets US Jewish delegation, says settlements obstruct peace” [but US Jews fail to criticize Abbas’s daily incitement in Arabic to murder Jews] (PLO Wafa News Agency, March 9, 2017)
11. “Yemeni forces destroy another Saudi Warship” (Fars News Agency (Iran), March 11, 2017)
12. “World Baseball Classic: Israel continues to shock the world, beats Cuba 4-1” (By Natasha Dornberg, Haaretz, March 12, 2017)



Hamas Moves Closer to Approving 1967 Borders
By Kifah Ziboun
Asharq Al-Awsat (Saudi Arabia)
March 8, 2017

Ramallah - Palestine’s Hamas organization is moving towards declaring a Palestinian state over the 1967 borders, without first recognizing an Israeli state.

Any official statement concerning altering the charter, issued by the bloc governing Gaza Strip will be verified and released after holding political wing elections in April.

The 1967 borders, advocated by former United States President Barack Obama, refer to the armistice lines from before the Six Day War, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, among other land, expanding its territory beyond the “Green Line” borders delineated by a 1949 armistice between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

It is expected that the announcement would also include the movement’s “separation from any foreign body or organization–in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt–” Hamas sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

“All of Hamas bodies whether affiliated with its political wing or military brigades had contributed to drafting the declaration,” sources added.

“Amendments were made during a meeting held in Qatar’s capital Doha,” they said.

Each of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal, Former Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Ismail Haniyeh and senior Hamas member Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook have attended the meeting and await the declaration to be reviewed and approved by the movement’s consultative councils post elections.

Moreover, the sources emphasized that the declaration strictly defines animosity against occupying forces, and not Jews in an attempt to shake off accusations of anti-Semitism.

Aforementioned amendments constitute a major shift in rhetoric used by the movement 29 years ago, which considered itself the ‘Palestine wing of the Muslim Brotherhood’, and had fiercely opposed peaceful solutions deeming that ‘the Palestine cause is a religious issue, and the battle against the Jews is both great and dangerous.’

The founding document, the Hamas Charter, dated 18 August 1988, contains both anti-Semitic passages, characterizations of Israeli society as Nazi-like in its cruelty.

It declares all of Palestine waqf property endowed by God to Muslims, with religious coexistence under Islam’s wing solely. The charter rejects a two-state solution, envisaging no peaceful settlement of the conflict.



The real cost of Russia’s Syrian campaign
By John C.K. Daly
The Arab Weekly
March 6, 2017

The Russian military intervention in the Syrian conflict began in September 2015. Six months later, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the military operations there cost the country’s Defense Ministry $483 million.

For Western observers, the most striking element of Russia’s Syrian intervention was the deployment of a significant portion of Russia’s naval assets there, its largest surface deploy­ment since the Cold War. At a ceremony in the Northern Fleet’s Severomorsk base honoring the return of the Russian sailors, Putin stated it was his idea to send Russian naval units to Syria.

The centerpiece of Russian naval operations was the deploy­ment from its Northern Fleet of the country’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, in its first combat mission.

The Kuznetsov was joined by other Russian warships, including nuclear-powered battle cruiser Petr Velikii, the Severomorsk and the Vice Admiral Kulakov destroyers, support vessels and anti-submarine ships.

During the Syria campaign, a new generation of Russian Kalibr cruise missiles debuted, launched from corvettes, frigates and diesel-electric submarines. During the two months of the Kuznetsov’s battle operations, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that its naval aircraft flew 420 combat missions, 117 of them at night, striking 1,252 targets, including infrastructure, concentrations of fighters and military equipment.

Russian analysts reported that the carrier’s deployment and combat operations cost about $170 million – less than the cost of two new F-35 fifth-generation U.S. fighter aircraft.

Despite the relatively modest cost of the Russian intervention, it has paid off handsomely for its military. Moscow and Damascus have signed a 49-year lease allowing the Russian Navy to use the Syrian port of Tartus, which will be upgraded to handle up to 11 warships at once, giving the Russian Navy a permanent base in the eastern Mediterranean.

In the future, warships primar­ily from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet will deploy there to support what the Russian Defense Ministry is calling the Russian Navy’s “permanent” group in the Mediterranean. This development should surprise no one, as rebuilding Russia’s military presence in the Mediterranean was one of the goals outlined in the 2015 edition of Russia’s maritime doctrine.

Above and beyond the value of the new naval base, however, is Russia’s long-standing concern that the chaos in Syria was providing a training ground for jihadists. The Russian General Staff and the Federal Security Service said there are as many as 4,000 militants from Russia and about 5,000 from former Soviet republics fighting in Syria.

The Russian government is concerned that these battle-hard­ened jihadists could return home having acquired lethal skills. Reinforcing this concern, at his meeting with the sailors, Putin said Russia does not intend to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs but wants to deal with the terrorists and that Russia’s goal in Syria is to stabilize the legitimate government and to “put an end to the terrorist blight.”

The net result of Russia’s military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is a guarantee that Russia has a place at the table in peace discussions along a return as a major diplomatic player in the Middle East.

However, if Russian military valor is helping to turn the tide in Syria, its presence there after the end of major military opera­tions is much less clear. Analyses estimate that the Syrian economy will need more than $1 trillion to recover from the civil war. The billions of dollars needed to reconstruct Syria are far beyond Moscow’s means, which will likely focus instead on narrowly defined projects with economic value, such as rebuilding the country’s oil and hydrocarbons infrastructure.

In neighboring Iraq, where Western military power predomi­nated, Russian companies were excluded from such projects, a situation that the Russian government is certain to ensure will not recur in Syria.

Such concerns are far in the future. For the moment, Russia has secured the use of an invalu­able naval base, ending NATO’s dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean. Moscow has deployed a pragmatic policy of supporting what it defines as “legitimate” governments, combined with a stout anti-terrorist policy unaffected by notions of regime change for human rights lectures, policies that ensure it a sympathetic hearing in a number of Middle Eastern countries.

Not a bad return on a military investment of less than $1 billion.



Gangster’s Paradise: Assad’s Control Erodes as Warlords Gain Upper Hand

Bashar Assad’s power over the areas of Syria under government control is slipping. Armed militias are growing stronger and the country’s president can do nothing to stop them.

By Fritz Schaap
Der Spiegel (Germany)
March 8, 2017

At times, the army or the military intelligence service has tried to come down on the warlords. But such attempts have always ended in fiasco. In March 2016, Assad units arrested the leader of a powerful Christian militia from the north of the province following an exchange of gunfire. But his followers violently protested and the man was soon freed.

“Yes, we have problems,” says Hussein Dayoub, head of the Assad’s Baath Party in Hama. Sitting in his wood-paneled office beneath a portrait of the president, he admits that militia members have set up checkpoints and extorted tolls. He also says that smuggling and kidnapping is a problem, but adds that he doesn’t know who is behind it.

In theory, Dayoub is a powerful man, head of the local chapter of the governing party. But even he is apparently afraid of falling into disfavor with the militias, the true rulers of Hama. In faraway Damascus, the country’s minister of reconciliation also tells DER SPIEGEL that the regime is aware of the problem but does not have the power to put a stop to it.

The largest rivals of the Hama-based Tiger Forces in the battle for smuggling profits and power can be found in Latakia, the coastal city in the Alawite heartland. Rain is beating down as low clouds move in from the sea. The steel factory belonging to Mohamed Jaber is located among the fields south of the city. Where T-beams were once manufactured for building construction, rockets are now soldered together and armor is mounted on pick-ups. This is where the Desert Hawks have one of their bases and their weapons factory.

The gray hangar on site, made of cement and corrugated sheet metal, is maybe 200 meters long. Eight Soviet-made T-72 tanks are sitting in the mud to one side while military trucks, armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery surround the building.


Young men are milling about in front of a former office building, some no older than 15. They are dressed in camouflage and their eyes are tired: It wasn’t that long ago that they returned from the battle for Aleppo. They huddle in the rain, smoking cigarettes among truck parts and anti-aircraft guns. Inside, where invoices and order slips were once filed away in wooden cabinets, boxes crammed full of munitions are now stacked.

Following the surprisingly candid tour of his weapons factory, Desert Hawks leader Jaber leads the way to his apartment. He lives on the fourth floor of an upscale apartment building with a view of Latakia’s harbor: The walls are paneled, the floor is marble and in the back is a gigantic flat-screen television playing propaganda videos for his militia. On a sideboard, framed certificates of gratitude from Russia are on display.

Jaber is a corpulent, conceited man. He spends an hour holding forth on the military successes achieved by his militia, periodically shouting at his staff to bring maps and tea.

Yes, he finally admits, his men have engaged in plundering, but only rarely. Black sheep, after all, can be found everywhere, he says. “We are a large group. Some are good, some are bad. But they are fighting for our country, that’s the most important thing.”

And he adds: “In Hama there are militias. They are kidnappers, robbers and murderers.” The reference, of course, is to the Tiger Forces, his rivals.

During the March 2016 battle for the city of Palmyra, famous for its ancient ruins, the two militias exchanged gunfire. A high-ranking military delegation was quickly sent from Damascus to mediate. Since then, Assad’s people have tried to assign the Tigers and the Hawks to different fighting fronts.


Mohamed Jaber and his brother initially became rich from smuggling. In the 1990s, they began by spiriting oil into the country from Iraq before investing their millions in the steel industry. When the Syrian civil war began in 2011 and international sanctions isolated the Assad regime, they were asked to use their smuggling contacts to bring in badly needed oil and gasoline.

To protect their convoys as they drove through the desert, the Jabers recruited hundreds of former soldiers -- and criminals. In August 2013, Assad signed a decree allowing private businesspeople to maintain their own security forces, thus paving the way for kleptocrats in his favor to become warlords.

Jaber, though, says he isn’t interested in either power or money, claiming he already has enough of both. Rather, he only wants to help the great President Bashar Assad. When the war is over, he’ll lay down his weapons he says, before adding a bit later: “We could control over 60 percent of the country, if we were allowed to.”

The Russians have a pragmatic approach to the militias: Depending on the situation, the local warlords are given weapons, medals and selfies with Russian officers. But privately the Russian generals complain about the shocking state of the army and about the militias.

If the warlords become more powerful, Assad may soon become little more than a figurehead, surrounded by a coterie of robbers and smugglers. And the militias are also gaining political influence: In parliamentary elections last spring, candidates from the old ruling class didn’t do as well as they had in the past. Instead, candidates affiliated with the warlords emerged victorious.

Elections in Syria, of course, don’t reflect the will of the electorate. They only show who has the power to get his candidates elected. It is often said that, while Assad might be dreadful, he is the last remaining state authority in the country. But the strength of the militias shows that he lost even that authority long ago.



Arab League chief: situation inappropriate to Syria’s return to League
Kuwait News Agency
March 8, 2017

The situation in Arab countries is inconvenient for the return of Syria to its seat at the Arab League, said league’s secretary General Ahmad Abul Gheit on Tuesday.

Abul Gheit made the remark to reporters during a joint news conference with Algerian Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and Arab League Abdulqader Messahel at the conclusion of the 147th session of the Council of the Arab League in Cairo.

The proposal made by Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari on Syria is being discussed in camera, but the circumstances are inappropriate to take this step, Abul Gheit added.

“We should listen to a different view and then take a decision in this regard,” he said.

Regarding his dissatisfaction with the exclusion of Arabs from the negotiations on Syria, he noted that “international and regional powers are the bodies which deal with situation in Syria.

“I expressed a desire to involve Arabs in negotiations on Syria through an Arab consensus on this dossier and this will be done during the upcoming Arab summit,” he said.

On his call for drawing up a comprehensive system of Arab vision to combat terrorism, Abul Gheit said this point is included in two resolutions issued today during the meeting and will be submitted to the next summit in Jordan.

There was a complete Arab consensus during the meeting on overcoming challenges facing Arab countries, he added.

Concerning the abandonment by the new US administration of the two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, Abul Gheit stressed that the Arabs are committed to the two-state solution and the Arab initiative, calling for patience for a “while” until the new US administration formulates its stance.

He indicated that a written statement was sent to the representative of the United States to the United Nations that confirms the two-state solution.

Meanwhile, he said efforts are being exerted to involve the European Union, along with the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union, in contributions to resolving Libyan crisis.

Consultations are underway to hold a meeting including heads and representatives of the four organizations concerned with the Libyan crisis either before or after the upcoming Arab summit, he affirmed.

For his part, the Algerian minister, head of the 147th session, referred to cooperation amongst his country, Egypt and Tunisia so as to solve Libyan crisis.

He emphasized that the crisis can be resolved through a comprehensive dialogue amongst all Libyans, except for those who belong to organizations which have been designated by the UN as “terrorist groups.” He, at the same time, warned of terrorism, and absence of strong institutions and a unified army in Libya, indicating that such factors are an appropriate environment of the aggravated phenomenon of terrorism.



Iraqi Resistance Movement Establishes Brigade to Liberate Golan Heights
Tasnim News Agency (Iran)
March 8, 2017

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The spokesman for Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement, a major Shiite resistance group, announced that the movement has formed a special brigade to liberate Golan Heights from the Zionist regime of Israel.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Tasnim News Agency central office on Wednesday, Seyed Hashem al-Moussavi highlighted the involvement of al-Nujaba forces in the Syrian government’s military campaign against foreign-backed terrorists and said they will not leave Syria until “the last terrorist” leaves the Arab country.

“After recent victories (in Syria), we have established the Golan Liberation Brigade,” he said, adding that the forces are well-trained.

“If the Syrian government requests, we are ready to take actions to liberate Golan,” the spokesman underlined.

He went on to say that the Golan Liberation Brigade is comprised of highly-equipped special forces, who have not left a region unless they ended a conflict there.

The al-Nujaba Movement is an offshoot of Iraqi voluntary forces, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units or Hashid al-Shaabi, which is active both in Iraq and Syria.

Syria has been gripped by civil war since March 2011 with various terrorist groups, including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL), currently controlling parts of it.

According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

The Daesh terrorist group claims as an independent state the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant, including Lebanon, occupied Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, and Southern Turkey.



Iran using ‘Mahan Air’ civilian airliners to hide transfer of weapons and fighters to Syria, Yemen
March 6, 2017

On February 25, 2017, the Iranian reformist website Amad News reported, citing a source in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), that the IRGC is using civilian passenger jets operated by the Iranian airline Mahan Air to transfer weapons to Syria and Yemen and also to bring back the bodies of fallen fighters as well as injured fighters requiring treatment.

The following are excerpts from the report, which also included photos: [1]

“A knowledgeable source in the IRGC provided Amad News with photos showing that this Iranian airline [Mahan Air] operates flights to Syria and Yemen on which it transports dead and injured Iranians, Syrians, and Yemenis back to Iran. The photos clearly show that the seats and floor of the airliner are covered with plastic sheeting so that no evidence of the injured [fighters’ presence] is left behind.

“In October 2016, a knowledgeable source at the U.S. Treasury Department told AP that the U.S. was trying to convince the E.U. to cooperate with American steps to disrupt Mahan Air’s financial flows. Five years ago, America leveled sanctions on Mahan Air due to its close ties to the IRGC and allegations that it was transferring weapons to Syria and Yemen, but thus far, the E.U. has not complied with these sanctions.

“This knowledgeable source at the IRGC told the Amad News reporter that ‘Mahan [Air] flights to Damascus in Syria and Sana’a in Yemen are loaded with numerous pallets of weapons that are stowed in the [cargo] hold and sent to [combat] zones. He said that one of these airliners, whose cargo hold was packed with weapons, attempted to land at Sana’a but was threatened by two Saudi bombers, and that due to the bombing of the Sana’a airport, it was unable to unload the military cargo in question.’ It seems that this military source is referring to an event that took place on May 3, 2015, when two Saudi bombers escorted an Iranian airliner and prevented it from landing in Yemen by bombing the Sana’a airport. Iran claimed the airliner was loaded with aid including food and drugs, but this senior military source said it was actually transporting weapons for the Houthis.

“This IRGC military source [also] said that a claim made last year, that [IRGC Qods Force Commander] Qassem Soleimani had been on that plane, was untrue and that Soleimani had not been not on board... [According to the source:] ‘Last year, one of these airliners transported regular passengers [as well as] military forces and ammo from Iran to Syria, and on its way back to Iran, it brought dead and injured Iranians, Syrians, Afghanis, and Pakistanis for treatment or burial in Iran.’ He added: ‘On the return trip from Syria, these airliners carry people in Zone C, which is in the rear of the plane and the regular passengers cannot see it. They disembark via the rear door and occupy a separate part [of the plane] from the regular passengers. These are the same people Iran trains in armed combat and guerilla warfare at IRGC bases. In fact, the IRGC commanders use the regular passengers on Mahan Air flights as a cover to transfer weapons, ammo, and [fighters] trained [to wage] guerrilla warfare in the region.”[2]

[1] Amad News was founded by journalists who were arrested or threatened during the 2009 Green Protest (a wave of demonstrations over the declared results of the 2009 presidential elections, which the protesters claimed to have been falsified). According to the website’s “About” section, they are continuing the Green Protest movement and act to publish transparent news and expose corruption in the Iranian regime to help the Iranian people attain their rights.

[2] Amad News (Iran), February 25, 2017.



Egyptian army colonel killed, 2 soldiers injured in Sinai bombing
Maan News agency (Palestine, EU funded)
March 9, 2017

CAIRO (Ma’an) -- An Egyptian army colonel was killed on Thursday while two Egyptian soldiers were injured in a bombing attack on an Egyptian police tank in the city of al-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian officials told Ma’an that colonel Yasser Muhammad al-Hadidi, 50, who served as a general security inspector in the southern Sinai was killed while two soldiers were injured after their tank was “targeted and bombed.”



Palestinian President ‘Abbas meets with terrorists and terrorists’ families
March 8, 2017

Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas met recently with Palestinians who carried out terrorist attacks and with the family of a terrorist. On March 5, 2017 he received in his office in Ramallah the family of Muhammad Al-Jallad, who died of his wounds after being shot while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack at a checkpoint in November 2016.[1] ‘Abbas also met with 14-year-old Osama Zaidat, who was shot while attempting to stab civilians in Kiryat Arba in September 2016 and who was recently released from detention, as well as with ‘Imad ‘Asaf, a member of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, who took part in the Second Intifada in 2000 and was recently released from prison.[2]

In one of the meetings ‘Abbas said: “The aggression of Israel’s arrest and murder [of Palestinians] will not keep the Palestinian people from adhering to its well-deserved rights and from establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital... The Palestinian leadership will make every effort to end the suffering of our heroic brothers and release them from the occupation’s prisons so they can take part in building the homeland for which they sacrificed.”[3]

It should be noted that ‘Abbas often stresses the importance he ascribes to freeing the prisoners and emphasizes that the Palestinian leadership is making every effort to secure their release. For example, at an August 8, 2016 reception in Ramallah for the released prisoner Shadi Al-Baba of the Al-Qassam Brigades, he said: “The issue of the prisoners will continue to be a top priority for the [Palestinian] leadership, [which will act] to free all the prisoners and detainees.[4] He made similar remarks in a December 28, 2016 meeting with Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, who were released from administrative detention following a 28-day hunger strike.[5] At the Seventh Fatah Conference on December 1, 2016, he praised the Palestinian prisoners, especially senior Fatah and Popular Front operatives who were behind terrorist attacks, including the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi, saying: “We remember the martyrs, the wounded and the prisoners and their record... We salute our brave prisoners and respect them. We will not forget our fighting comrades Marwan Al-Barghouti, Ahmad Sa’dat and Fouad Shubaki, or [our] glorious woman prisoners.”[6]

[1], February 10, 2017.
[3], March 6, 2017.
[4] August 8, 2016.
[5], December 8, 2016.
[6] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 1, 2016



Palestinian Authority, Fatah members participate in celebrations in Israeli city for Arab-Israeli Prisoner released after serving 15-year terrorism sentence
March 7, 2017

On February 27, 2017, the Israeli city of Lod hosted a reception and celebration for Hafez ‘Abd Al-Fattah Muqabal, a local resident, who was released from Israeli prison after serving a 15-year sentence for perpetrating a 2002 terrorist attack at the Maccabim Security Checkpoint and for possession of illegal weapons.[1]

The event was organized by Israeli-Arab Lod residents and was attended by Muqabal’s family and members of the Arab scouts, who held a musical procession in his honor.[2] The attendees also included released prisoners and a delegation from East Jerusalem, representing the Fatah movement’s Jerusalem region.[3]

‘Awad Al-Salaymeh , a Fatah member in Jerusalem, said during the ceremony: “The issue of the prisoners is a top priority for the Palestinian national leadership, which will not rest until all the brave prisoners are released.” Jerusalem Palestinian Prisoners’ Club director Nasser Kos said that “the prisoners [represent] the true meaning of steadfastness and sacrifice for the sake of an honorable life in the homeland that the occupation is attempting to Judaize.”[4]

Muqabal himself thanked Fatah in Jerusalem, stating: “My joy is incomplete, as I have left my prisoner brothers behind in the occupation prisons under harsh conditions.”[5]

The reception hall was decorated with Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah flags, as well as Fatah posters expressing joy at Muqabal’s release.

Poster at the event featuring Fatah in Jerusalem’s message of congratulations for the released prisoner (, February 27, 2017)

Poster featuring the caption “The released prisoner, Hafez ‘Abd Al-Fattah Muqabal the hero” (, February 27, 2017)

Muqabal hoisted on another man’s shoulders at the celebration (, February 27, 2017)

PA and Fatah flags at the event (, February.2,.2017)
Several days later, on March 1, 2017, Muqabal’s home in Lod was visited by Ramallah Governor Laila Ghannam, Fatah Secretary in Ramallah Muwaffaq Sahwil, and other Fatah members. A Fatah poster offering congratulations on his release was also hung in the home.[6]

PA officials honored the released prisoner and held a reception for the released prisoner in Ramallah as well. At the reception, Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister ‘Issa Karaka and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club head Qadura Fares were photographed with Muqabal in front of a poster that reads: “The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club welcome the released prisoner, the fighter Hafez Muqabal.”[7]

The released prisoner holding the citation is flanked to his right by ‘Issa Karaka and to his left by Qadura Fares (, March 1, 2017)

[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
[2], February 27, 2017;, February 28, 2017.
[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2017.
[6], March 1, 2017.
[7], March 1, 2017.



Middle East expert Aaron Lerner points out that from their press release and other statements, it seems that a 30 member delegation from the (American) Union for Reform Judaism (led by URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs) that visited Palestinian President Abbas at the Mukataa in Ramallah on Thursday, happily criticized the democratically elected government of Israel but gave Abbas a “free pass” regarding his continuing incitement encouraging Palestinians to murder Israeli civilians.


President Abbas meets US Jewish delegation, says settlements obstruct peace
Wafa News Agency (PLO-funded)
March 9, 2017

RAMALLAH, (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday told a delegation from the Jewish reform movement in the United States that Israel’s persistence in settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem obstructs peace efforts.

“Israel’s persistence in settlement construction as well as its policy of killing, home demolitions, detentions and raids obstructs initiating a serious peace process leading to an end to the Israeli occupation,” he told the delegation from the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) who met him at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

Abbas affirmed to his guests the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to achieving a comprehensive and just peace based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative in order to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The URJ delegation stressed their full support to the two-state solution to the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict and justice to the Palestinian people through Palestinian statehood.

They slammed Israeli settlement construction as an obstacle to the peace process.


(Tom Gross adds: Other reports say the first warship was disabled, rather than destroyed.)


Yemeni Forces Destroy Another Saudi Warship
Fars News Agency (Iran)
March 11, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- A warship of the Saudi-led forces was destroyed after hitting a sea mine laid by the Yemeni army and popular forces in the coastal waters of Ta’iz province.
“The Saudi-led warship was destroyed in the city of al-Mukha in Ta’iz province in Southwestern Yemen,” a Yemeni military source said.

The source noted that all crew members of the warship were killed in the explosion.

This is the 13th time that a Saudi warship is sent deep into the waters of Bab al-Mandab Strait by the Yemeni forces.

In a relevant development in late February, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in al-Hudayda coastal waters with a guided missile, the 12th Saudi vessel sinking offshore Yemen.

The Saudi warship was precisely targeted by the Yemeni missile in al-Hudayda province as the vessel was trying to get close to al-Khokheh coastal waters.

The sunken ship had repeatedly fired rockets at residential areas in Ta’iz province, inflicting casualties and destruction there.

Other Saudi battleships that were approaching Yemen’s coasts retreated fast following the attack.

On January 24, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.

On December 28, 2015, the Yemeni forces destroyed a Saudi-led coalition warship in al-Mukha coast.

On December 11, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.

On December 5, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.

On November 25, the Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.

On November 15, Yemeni forces destroyed a Saudi-led coalition warship al-Mukha coast.

On November 7, Yemeni forces fired rockets at a Saudi-led coalition warship and destroyed it near al-Mukha coast.

On October 25, the Yemeni forces hit and destroyed another Saudi warship in Bab al-Mandab Strait

On October 11, another ship which belonged to the Egyptian army and named al-Mahrousa was destroyed by Yemeni missiles in the coastal waters near al-Mukha coast.

On October 9, Yemeni army and popular forces also fired missiles at a Saudi warship, and destroyed it in Bab al-Mandab Strait.

The warship was wrecked off the Southwestern coast of Yemen, in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.



World Baseball Classic: Israel continues to shock the world, beats Cuba 4-1

Team Israel’s Cinderella run continues in the first game of the World Baseball Classic quarterfinals.

By Natasha Dornberg
Haaretz (sports pages)
March 12, 2017

Team Israel continued to shock the world and defeated a well-regarded Cuba 4-1 Sunday in the first quarterfinal game of the World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome.

The win brings underdog Israel’s record in the tournament to 4-0. Israel next faces the Netherlands at 12:00 P.M. Monday (Israel time).

Cuba, with its rich baseball history and a national team that has medalled in all five Olympic baseball tournaments, was first on the board, after slugger Alfredo Despaigne drove a solo home run to left-center in the second inning. This was Despaigne’s third homer of the tournament, making him the all-time WBC home-run leader.

Israeli catcher Ryan Lavarnway, awarded MVP for Pool A last week, dug Israel out from behind the 1-0 deficit in the fourth after driving Ike Davis home with an RBI double. Israel added two more runs in the sixth and finally sealed the deal with a run in the bottom of the eighth.

Israel starter Jason Marquis pitched 5 2/3 innings. Manager Jerry Weinstein said about the decision to pull him that Marquis “had a lot left in the tank but we liked the match-up better to bring Zack Thornton in, and Thornton proved us right and did a great job.” Thornton will be credited with the win. White Sox reliever Brad Goldberg came in for Thornton.

Closer Josh Zeid pitched four outs for the second save of his WBC journey. All three Israel relievers remained under the pitch count and will be eligible to pitch against the Netherlands on Monday.

The win over Cuba gives Israel a strong mental boost ahead of games against the Netherlands and host Japan to advance in the quarterfinal round, which is played as a round robin. One win in those two games could be enough to bring Israel to Dodger Stadium for the semifinals.

Israel beat the Netherlands 6-5 in the final game of the previous round, although by then both teams were assured quarterfinal berths and were playing for bragging rights.

Underdog Israel’s success to date, a national team representing a country that has little national baseball culture, sweeping its bracket in the last round has surprised many, but apparently not team Israel itself.

Embracing tournament rules that allow any player who is eligible for citizenship to represent a country, Israel cobbled together its team from Jewish American baseball players. The Law of Return grants citizenship to any Jew who requests it.

However, ranked as far down the table as they are based on previous performances, team Israel has ten players with Major League experience. All its members are professional baseball players.

Weinstein rebuffed critics who have called Team Israel really a second Team USA. “The attitude in our clubhouse is we are representing Israel. We are not the Junior Varsity team for Team USA. We are Team Israel, and make no mistake about that.”

After Sunday’s win, starter Marquis noted “We have quality baseball players on this team; guys who have big league experience, a lot of young prospects who have bright futures, and a good mix of veterans who can help these guys through these tournament games.”

Marquis did revel a little in becoming a role model in the United States. “It’s a great story for people back home who follow the game and who are in our shoes – have Jewish heritage – to look up to players like us who may not have otherwise had that opportunity.”


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

Saudi police beat transgender women to death (& Israelis go to the funeral of a woman they never met)

March 04, 2017

Over 200 Israelis took time off work this week to attend the funeral of a woman they had never met, 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hilde Nathan, after a friend of hers in the Canary Islands told an Israeli newspaper that there was no one to go to her funeral. German-born Nathan moved to the Canary Islands in order to find peace, and her dying wish was to buried in Israel. She did not have a husband or children. (See the last item below.)


This dispatch contains a variety of news items from recent days that you may have missed.

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook



1. Saudi police beat two transgender women to death
2. Saudi king will bring 506 tons of luggage, including two limos, on trip to Indonesia
3. Young Iranian chess grandmaster will be “severely” punished for not wearing her hijab
4. Iranian morality police beat and detain 14-year-old girl for wearing ripped jeans
5. Israeli who converted to Islam arrested en route to join Islamic State in Syria
6. Israeli lawsuit against Facebook for providing terrorists a platform proceeds
7. Facebook briefly deletes, then reinstates Fatah Facebook page
8. Hamas bans parents from naming their baby “Mahmoud Abbas”
9. Left-wing journalist arrested for bomb threats against Jews, some media obscure this
10. At peace talks, Syria rebels urge Trump to correct Obama’s “catastrophic mistakes”
11. “She lived alone, but did not leave alone”


[Notes by Tom Gross]


On Tuesday, two transgender women were stuffed into sacks and beaten to death with sticks by police in Saudi Arabia, according to a report in the Pakistani daily Express Tribune, and other media.

The pair, identified as Meeno, 26, and Amna, 35, were arrested as part of a Religious Police raid of a transgender meeting at a Riyadh hostel. They were part of the large community of Pakistani workers employed in Saudi Arabia, some of whom work in slave-like conditions.

Of the 35 people arrested, 22 remain in prison while 11 others were released after paying a hefty fine of 150,000 riyals ($40,000). Amna and Meeno were pronounced dead in police custody.

Pakistani transgender rights activist Qamar Naseem, who called the police brutality “inhumane,” said there were many other transgender persons locked up in Saudi jails without trial, sometimes for years.

In 2009, Human Rights Watch criticized Saudi Arabia after 67 men were publically whipped for cross-dressing.



The Washington Post reports:

Saudi king taking 506 tons of luggage, including two limos, on trip to Indonesia

He will also bring two electric elevators for his personal use…

Saudi royals are often known for traveling in grandiose style. King Salman booked the entire Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown when he visited Washington in 2015. The hotel, one of the most luxurious in the area, has 222 rooms.

That same year, the king was criticized by some locals after his 1,000-person entourage forced the closure of a beach on the French Riviera for three days due to privacy and security concerns. The local mayor also complained to the French president that the Saudi group had poured concrete directly onto the sand in an unauthorized attempt to install an elevator.

While the Saudi king’s colossal cargo hold may seem large, it is not necessarily out of scale with those of other world leaders. When President Barack Obama visited sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, he was accompanied by 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines, and hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents tasked with helping secure locations in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

Even when Obama traveled to less exotic locales, there were reports of a similarly high level of organization: A 2014 visit to Brussels included a 900-person entourage and 45 vehicles, according to the Guardian.”


Tom Gross adds: Maybe King Salman would like to donate a few clothes to Syrian refugees in neighboring Jordan?




Young Iranian chess player 18-year-old Dorsa Derakhshani (above) has been expelled from the Iranian national team after she took off her hijab, an act forbidden by the Islamic regime (which the New York Times and BBC and CNN have repeatedly described as “moderate” over the last few years).

She took off her hijab while competing as an independent player in last month’s Gibraltar Chess Festival. Her brother Borna, 15, will also be punished after playing a match against young Israeli player Alexander Huzman in the same tournament.

The head of Iran’s Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, says both siblings will be dealt with in the “severest way possible.”

Iran was the land where chess was reportedly invented, in its much more liberal pre-Islamic days.

Last September, chess players accused the World Chess Federation (FIDE) of failing to stand up for women’s rights after it said competitors must accept local Islamic law and wear hijabs during the world championship in Tehran.


Please see also this dispatch from 2014:

Iranian women post photos free of Hijab – but only for a few seconds

And the videos here (including Arrested for dancing to the song “Happy” in Tehran)




The British paper The Independent reports that a 14-year-old girl (pictured above) has been beaten and detained for wearing ripped jeans in Iran in the latest incident of police brutality against women and girls.

She was celebrating her birthday with friends in the city of Shiraz last month when a patrol of “morality police” pulled up. The teenager and her friends were beaten and then the 14-year-old driven off in the police car.

“I still have bruises sustained from their beatings on my face,” she told The Independent. “I still feel their pressure on my arm and my ribs still hurt.”

Exiled Iranian campaigners for women’s rights said many others had gone through similar experiences in Iran.

Relationships between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are also illegal in Iran and punishable by whipping (for the women).

Homosexuality, adultery and sex outside marriage can carry the death penalty.

In a separate development, a professor at a Belgian university has been sentenced to death in Iran.



A Belarusian-born Israeli Jew who converted to Islam in 2002 after marrying an Israeli Arab woman, and has grown increasingly extreme over the last decade, has been arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet security service as he attempted to join the Islamic State group in Syria.

The suspect, Valentin Vladimir Mazlevski, a 39-year-old father of five, moved to Israel from Belarus in 1996 at age 18 and converted to Islam four years later. He proclaimed “God is great” in Arabic as he was charged in an Israeli court in Nazareth last week.

According to the prosecution, he purchased a one-way ticket to Turkey in January, with the goal of crossing the border into Syria, and had been coordinating his trip on the internet with ISIS operatives in Syria through the Telegram encrypted messaging application.

He lives with his wife and children in the Arab Israeli town of Shibli Umm al-Ghanam.

Police say he has admitted that his intention was to “fulfill the commandment placed on every true Muslim to live under an Islamic State and hold fast to his belief.”

About 50 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS in recent years, but this is the first known case of an Israeli who was born Jewish trying to do so -- although some Americans of Jewish origin who have converted to Islam have gone on to join Al-Qaeda, most notably Adam Gadahn (born Pearlman), who was then killed in an American drone strike. (Gadahn’s grandfather, Carl Pearlman, was a prominent surgeon and served on the Board of Directors of the Anti-Defamation League.)



The son of murdered American-Israeli peace campaigner Richard Lakin, (mentioned here) told The Jerusalem Post that he is “outraged” at Facebook for pretending at a U.S. federal court hearing on Wednesday in New York that it has zero tolerance for terrorism.

He made the comments just after another hearing had been completed in an anti-terrorism lawsuit against Facebook.

Lakin’s son is one of the original plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by a group of about 20,000 Israelis against Facebook for providing a platform for terrorists involved in the “stabbing and vehicle intifada” of 2015 and 2016 and demanding an injunction ordering Facebook to take down pages that encourage terror attacks.

Facebook had filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing that the U.S. Communications Decency Act (1996) prevents legal claims against it for posts by third parties using its platform.

Lawyers for the Israeli victims and their relatives argue that Facebook has powerful algorithms that it could use to catch and take down incitement and terrorist communications if it wanted to, and pointed out that last year it was revealed by employees that Facebook has removed or obscured material it doesn’t like from American conservative websites while promoting stories by liberal publications.

Lakin’s son said: “Facebook’s lawyer started his speech saying it has zero tolerance for terror. But the big dirty secret is that they make a ton of money from it. Facebook is getting lots of traffic and selling ads – the quantity of jihadists’ traffic is big and they get a lot of money out of it.”



Possibly in reaction to the New York court case, Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s official Fatah Facebook page, which among other things shows a mound of skulls marked with Jewish stars, and routinely posts material that glorifies and incites the murder of Jews, was taken down last week.

But the page has now been reinstated.

In January, Facebook removed more than 100 pages belonging to the rival Hamas terror group, which had also praised and incited terrorism.

Israel has accused Facebook of facilitating Palestinian incitement against Israelis.



The Palestinian news site Wattan24 reported on Thursday that the Hamas-controlled interior ministry in Gaza has prevented Fayiz Badran from naming his new baby “Mahmoud Abbas”.

Mahmoud Abbas is, of course, the name of the Palestinian president and the leader of Hamas’s deadly rival Fatah faction.

Wattan24 accused Hamas of hypocrisy, pointing out that last month the authorities in Gaza had allowed children to be named after Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, former Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the West Bank, Palestinians have named their sons “Yasser Arafat” and “Saddam Hussein.”



The arrest yesterday by the FBI of a man suspected of being behind at least eight bomb threats against American Jewish centers and schools in recent weeks, has been reported accurately in some media but not in others.

For example, friends of mine in London who read the Financial Times and listen to the BBC several times per day, tell me they had not heard the news. This was 36 hours after it happened.

One suspects that had the FBI arrested a conservative journalist who worked for, for example, The National Review or Weekly Standard or Breitbart, or was a white right-wing extremist, this would have been a lead story on many media today.

But the arrested man is Juan Thompson, 31. He is a leftist who campaigned for Bernie Sanders, an African-American, and a journalist who worked for a publication edited by a former writer for The Guardian. He also reportedly said on his twitter account last year that he converted to Islam. These facts are either not mentioned at all or buried deep in the story in many of the publications that have been strongly insinuating, or even in some cases writing as though it were fact, that Trump supporters, were behind the anti-Semitic threats.

Thompson is accused of making bomb threats against 8 Jewish centers and schools, among them a Jewish school in Michigan, which he threatened to turn into “a Jewish Newtown,” in reference to the massacre in Newton, Connecticut in which 20 children were murdered.

And on February 22, the FBI say he made a phone call to the ADL saying there was C-4 explosives in the ADL’s New York office that would be “detonated within one hour.”

According to the charges, Thompson was also responsible for threats to Jewish centers in Dallas and San Diego, the Jewish History Museum and a Jewish school in Manhattan.

Thompson was until a year ago a journalist for the online publication The Intercept, a publication set up in 2014 by a journalist for the British paper, The Guardian.

The Intercept wrote yesterday: “We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyber stalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted.”



Reuters reports:

At peace talks, Syria rebels urge Trump to correct Obama’s “catastrophic mistakes”

The lead Syrian opposition negotiator at peace talks in Geneva said he hoped U.S. President Donald Trump would correct the “catastrophic” errors of his predecessor Barack Obama to become a reliable partner against “devilish” Iran.

The U.N.-led negotiations edged forwards on Wednesday, for the first time in six days, as both sides saw hope of shaping the agenda to their liking, but with indirect talks wrapping up this weekend there is little prospect of any real breakthrough.

“The people in Syria paid a high price because of the catastrophic mistakes made by the Obama administration,” Nasr al-Hariri told reporters in a briefing after meeting U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura.

“Obama lied and he didn’t keep any of the promises he made for the Syrian people. He drew red lines that he erased himself, he kept silent on crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad.” …



Over 200 Israelis took time off work this week to attend the funeral of a woman they had never met, 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hilde Nathan, after a friend of Hilde Nathan told an Israeli newspaper that there was no one to go to her funeral.

German-born Nathan moved to the Canary Islands in order to find peace and quiet after surviving Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp north of Prague, where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered and the rest deported to the Treblinka and Auschwitz death camps. She was barely alive when Theresienstadt was liberated by the Soviet army on May 8, 1945.

She did not have a husband or children, and her dying wish was to buried in Israel. The Jewish community of the Canary Islands, which numbers only 20 people, together paid for her body to be flown to Israel for burial.

Nathan’s sole friend in Israel, also a Holocaust survivor, and the only person at the funeral who knew her, told the website of “Unidos con Israel” (United with Israel), the Spanish branch of the charity that helped arrange the funeral, that “she lived alone, but did not leave alone.”

“During childhood, she was humiliated. She had no name, only a number. Today, thanks to many anonymous people, she had the dignified burial that she deserved.”